fum·​ble | \ˈfəm-bəl \
fumbled; fumbling\ˈfəm-​b(ə-​)liŋ \

Definition of fumble 

(Entry 1 of 2)

intransitive verb

1a : to grope for or handle something clumsily or aimlessly

b : to make awkward attempts to do or find something fumbled in his pocket for a coin

c : to search by trial and error

d : blunder

2 : to feel one's way or move awkwardly

3a : to drop or juggle or fail to play cleanly a grounder

b : to lose hold of a football while handling or running with it

transitive verb

1 : to bring about by clumsy manipulation

2a : to feel or handle clumsily

b : to deal with in a blundering way : bungle

3 : to make (one's way) in a clumsy manner

4a : misplay fumble a grounder

b : to lose hold of (a football) while handling or running



Definition of fumble (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : an act or instance of fumbling

2 : a fumbled ball

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Other Words from fumble


fumbler \ˈfəm-​b(ə-​)lər \ noun
fumblingly \ˈfəm-​b(ə-​)liŋ-​lē \ adverb

Examples of fumble in a Sentence


She fumbled in her pocket for her keys. They fumbled a good opportunity to take control of the market. He was hit hard and fumbled on the 20-yard line. He fumbled the ball on the 20-yard line.


played the entire piano piece without a single fumble
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Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

The game wants very badly to whack you over the head with its style, as well, yet developer Insomniac Games doesn't falter or fumble due to that stylistic obsession. Sam Machkovech, Ars Technica, "Sunset Overdrive review: Ride the rails to kaboom-town (finally on PCs, too)," 17 Nov. 2018 Karius also erred with Real's third goal, fumbling Gareth Bale's long-range shot into his own net to complete a miserable night for the German goalkeeper. Chicago Tribune, chicagotribune.com, "Karius suffered concussion in Champions League final - doctors," 5 June 2018 Then Jay Ajayi fumbles and everyone was like, UH OH. Ed Barkowitz, Philly.com, "Vegas Vic has the Eagles to win outright … again," 19 Jan. 2018 In the trailer, Griffin is seen violently tackling New England Patriots running back Rex Burkhead, forcing him to fumble the ball. Marco Santana, OrlandoSentinel.com, "Tampa company brings on-demand home-service app to Orlando," 21 June 2018 Both doctors fumbled over their words, leaving me without a clear answer. Sophie Saint Thomas, SELF, "Your Guide to Finding a Doctor Who Is an LGBTQ+ Ally," 14 Sep. 2018 The next week, Mark Zuckerberg fumbled an answer about Infowars by defending the rights of Holocaust deniers, and Facebook found itself in the midst of yet another public-relations crisis. Casey Newton, The Verge, "How Alex Jones lost his info war," 7 Aug. 2018 Time NEW YORK — The lunchtime lines at Dos Toros move faster these days — customers don't fumble for bills or coins, and employees don't make change. Joyce M. Rosenberg, USA TODAY, "Cashless restaurants trend results in faster lines, less hassle for customers, employees," 20 Apr. 2018 The term was invoked twice to explain why fumbles by Tennessee’s Marcus Mariota weren’t actually fumbles. Vahe Gregorian, kansascity, "Another early exit: Chiefs find new way to write same old story," 6 Jan. 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

The 49ers rank last in the NFL in fumbles (11) and interceptions gained (2) and 28th in interceptions lost (16). Mike Vorel, The Seattle Times, "Five more things to know about the Seahawks’ next opponent, the San Francisco 49ers," 11 Dec. 2018 But there's a reason Smash Ultimate can get away with its bonkers, thousand-fight conceit, especially during that mode's pacing fumbles. Sam Machkovech, Ars Technica, "Smash Bros. Ultimate review: The best fighting game on any Nintendo system," 6 Dec. 2018 Lake Howell struggled with snapping the ball in the first half, recovering two offensive fumbles and sustaining two losses for 35 yards. Jeff Gardenour, OrlandoSentinel.com, "Lake Brantley, Seminole win in spring football," 18 May 2018 There is going to be more catches and there is going to be more fumbles. Paul Dehner Jr., Cincinnati.com, "Catch rule that haunted the Cincinnati Bengals changed by NFL," 27 Mar. 2018 Though Jacksonville forced a pair of first-half turnovers, including Roethlisberger's fumble that Telvin Smith returned 48 yards for a score and a 28-7 lead, Pittsburgh rolled up 545 yards. Will Graves, Houston Chronicle, "Jaguars stun Steelers to earn trip to AFC title game," 14 Jan. 2018 In a 39-10 win over the 49ers last weekend, Donald finished with nine tackles, six tackles for loss, five quarterback hits, four sacks, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery. Mike Vorel, The Seattle Times, "NFC West Awards Week 8: We name the MVP, least valuable player, most dramatic storyline and more," 26 Oct. 2018 Barnett played 41 percent of the defensive snaps last season and finished with five sacks, one forced fumble, and two fumble recoveries. Zach Berman, Philly.com, "What's the Eagles' plan at punter as training camp approaches? | Early Birds," 10 July 2018 The Miami Hurricanes' Turnover Chain originated when defensive coordinator Manny Diaz wanted to find a way to reward his players for getting interceptions and fumbles. David Selig, Sun-Sentinel.com, "Miami Hurricanes' Turnover Chain now has its own bobblehead," 11 May 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'fumble.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of fumble


1534, in the meaning defined at intransitive sense 1a


1634, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for fumble


probably of Scandinavian origin; akin to Swedish fumla to fumble

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Statistics for fumble

Last Updated

14 Dec 2018

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Time Traveler for fumble

The first known use of fumble was in 1534

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More Definitions for fumble



English Language Learners Definition of fumble

: to search for something by reaching or touching with your fingers in an awkward or clumsy way

: to handle something in an awkward or clumsy way

sports : to fail to catch or hold the ball


fum·​ble | \ˈfəm-bəl \
fumbled; fumbling

Kids Definition of fumble

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : to feel about for or handle something in a clumsy way He fumbled in his pockets.

2 : to lose hold of the ball in football



Kids Definition of fumble (Entry 2 of 2)

: an act of losing hold of the ball in football

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More from Merriam-Webster on fumble

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with fumble

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for fumble

Spanish Central: Translation of fumble

Nglish: Translation of fumble for Spanish Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about fumble

Comments on fumble

What made you want to look up fumble? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


to make faulty or ineffective

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